Quote from No Comment blog today.
Torture is the habit of tyranny, not of free republics, and it cannot simply be switched on and off. It inculcates a conception of state power and human worth that directly conflicts with our founding principle of an inalienable dignity to the human person, even the most culpable. As we know from Abu Ghraib, once it is unleashed, even as a supposedly well- quarantined tactic practiced by putative professionals, torture spreads like cancer…. This is the lesson of history for all governments that turn to torture: an isolated practice expands to become the emblem of state power and the reality of the citizens’ subjection.
—From Because It Is Wrong—Torture, Privacy and Presidential Power in the Age of Terror
I'm no expert, and believe me I don't wish to be, on the subject of torture. Since the day W announced the opening of Guantanamo and the suspension of Habeas Corpus I knew torture would be in the mix. When the first pictures of torture surfaced from the normally lap dog press the only surprise was that it came to light so soon. Here's what I've learned since then:
A. Why torture is ineffective:
- Torture does not get the information you need. The ticking time bomb scenario makes for good fiction, not reality. Military leaders and the different JAG's have all pointed this out repeatedly.
- Standard military procedure is for captured soldiers to hold out under torture for 24 hours. At that point all the info they have will be useless. Sun Tzu mentions the Doomed Spy. Someone given information they think is correct so when captured and they reveal the information under torture makes the enemy believe the false information as true. We call this today Misinformation.
- Eventually everyone under torture will say or do anything in order to make it stop. How many people have confessed to crimes and spend years or their lives in prison for a crime they didn't commit? Chicago is a prime example of a city's police department that trampled justice for decades until their practices came to light.
- It dehumanizes the torturer as much at the one tortured. It dehumanizes the society that allows it. See quote above.
- To implement torture you have to violate the following in our constitution: 1. Habeas Corpus - indefinite confinement without charge 2 Bill of Attainder - punishment without due process of law (5th and 14th amendments) 3 cruel and unusual punishment 6th amendment.
B. Torture's effectiveness:
- I only came up one mention of how torture can be done right, and it came from a cartel hitman interviewed in Harper's magazine. Naturally he was in the country's police force and kidnapped people to hold for ransom. He recounted that he would get all the information about the person he could find and when he started questioning the guy would know at first when he was lying and then would apply torture. Only after he had conditioned the prisoner to not lie would he ask questions he needed the financial information for a ransom amount. This is kind of hard to do in a battlefield situation or by randomly grabbing people off the street in Iraq or Afghanistan. Stimulus/response only works with foreknowledge.
- Conformity or obedience. In prisons like Guantanamo those prisoners who have been tortured are the least likely to cause problems, they've been tamed, so to speak.
- They are however a tiger by the tail. Yes they will not cause problem while under guard, but let them loose and send them home and they want revenge. Many of those who were tortured and then released join terrorist groups wanting payback, can anyone blame them? This is unfortunately why Obama is finding it so hard to close these prisons down.